“Africa should not continue to depend on the economies of developed countries. The continent has to seriously consider its relations with the world”
-Teodoro Obiang Nguema, President Equatorial Guinea at the Opening of 23rd African Union Summit.
The withdrawal of the European colonial regimes from African soil by the middle of 20th century did not mark a complete termination of colonialism on the continent. Vestiges of colonialism continue to mark the relations of African countries with the developed world. African states remain heavily dependent and exploited under the effects of neo colonialism and neo liberalism. This dependency and exploitation particularly through the activities of Trans National Corporations, adversely affects the living conditions of millions of people in Africa, creating economic hardship and in some cases encouraging political repression. The term neocolonialism has been coined to describe this situation in Africa.
The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty but in reality it is economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside. The result of neo-colonialism is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than for the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment under neo-colonialism increases rather than decreases the gap between the rich and the poor countries of the world. One of the foremost proponents of neo colonialism was the former Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah who described Neo Colonialism as the worst form of imperialism and capitalist exploitation. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, a leader in the Gold Coast Revolution (later Ghana) and a proponent of Pan-Africanism and Socialism, identified neo-colonialism as the final phase of imperialism in a book he published in 1965 entitled “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism”. Nkrumah aptly wrote: “Faced with the militant peoples of the ex-colonial territories in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, imperialism simply switches tactics. Without a qualm it dispenses with its flags, and even with certain of its more hated expatriate officials. This means, so it claims, that it is ‘giving’ independence to its former subjects, to be followed by ‘aid’ for their development. Under cover of such phrases, however, it devises innumerable ways to accomplish objectives formerly achieved by naked colonialism. It is this sum total of these modern attempts to perpetuate colonialism while at the same time talking about ‘freedom’, which has come to be known as neo-colonialism”.
His thoughts still carry resonance in the second decade of the 21st century. Over fifty years later, most African nations are, in spite of the richness of their resources and productivity of their population, still catastrophically under developed, impoverished, indebted, plagued by conflict, unrest and instability due to the return of the colonial powers influence. Libya and the Ivory Coast are examples for the new colonization´s subversive influence. In present day Africa, developed nations have been constantly interfering under the pretext maintaining stability, and granting of human rights. As such there is a continued external military presence of international forces in many African nations. A prime example of this strategy is Angola. After the Socialist MPLA, backed by Cuba and the USSR came to power in Angola, the Western Block, read NATO countries, began building and supporting two alternative movements, the NFLA in Northern, and UNITA in Southern Angola.
Global powers, both new and old, are jostling for influence in Africa. This renewed ‘scramble for Africa’, to borrow a term from history, is largely to gain access to increasingly scarce natural resources such as oil and natural gas. In order to take advantage of these resources, both established and emerging powers such as the US, China, Brazil and India as well as former colonial powers like the UK and France continue vying for influence in the continent
Neo –colonialism has also taken an economic turn with the increasing Chinese influence and development aid to African countries. Chinese investments in Africa are a replication of the colonial model of unequal exchange. China is hungry – for land, food and energy. While accounting for a fifth of the world’s population, its oil consumption has risen 35-fold in the past decade and Africa is now providing a third of it; imports of steel, copper and aluminum have also shot up, with Beijing devouring 80 per cent of world supplies. Fuelling its own boom at home, China is also desperate for new markets to sell goods. And Africa, with non-existent health and safety rules to protect against shoddy and dangerous goods, is the perfect destination. In Africa, China is merely doing what the colonialists did. They want raw materials for their economic growth, just as the colonialists were going into Africa and taking the natural resources, leaving people poorer.
It is in these situations that the Non Aligned – Movement becomes even more relevant. Most of the African countries are members of the Non Aligned World. Non-alignment, as practiced by the developing countries, is based on co-operation with all States whether they are capitalist, socialist or have a mixed economy. Successive NAM summits have highlighted the problems of neo-colonialism.
NAM countries have been stringent opponents of an imperial military intervention as also the unequal model of trade relations whereby the centre benefits more than the periphery.
The Western capitals and the Chinese capital still dictate to the African governments. This should not be the case in a world that is pursing and striving for uniformity. The challenges of much of today Africa need visionary leadership of the Non – Aligned Movement.